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Sports Features of Thursday, 11 September 2014

Source: Listowell Yesu Bukarson

The cosmology of Brazil 2014-the African Origin story.

Reports are rife that the Ghana Football Association in a three page reply to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, probing the 2014 World cup debacle in Brazil has sought permission for its original appearance date of 15th September to be postponed.
Among the GFA’s reasons for this call are that, it is engulfed with activities which include its congress on Friday, 12th September and a lot of travels around the globe in the name of Ghana Football. The GFA will also have to seek clearance from the World football governing body, ALMIGHTY FIFA before respecting the constitutionally established Commission.
My information is that, the Commission is yet to respond to the GFA’s request. The world awaits the decision of the Commission whether to grant the GFA’s request or not.
But in all of this, I ask, if you don’t have anything to hide, do you have anything to fear? Point however is clear, that you can always run but you can’t hide and so the earlier the better. Let’s also remember, that beatings which is inevitably yours, earlier received, prevents future torrential hostilities.
Whichever way it is, it will just be a matter of time. For the GFA cannot and must not be made to escape appearance before the respected Commission.
A word to the wise, they is enough.
In the meantime, and in between times, let me extend greetings to Mr. Horace Ankrah. To the extent that today Gh34 is equal to UD$35 is not only amazing but miraculous. And this happens only in Ghana. Hehe!
Folks, the cosmology of the setbacks from the World Cup in Brazil stems from SYSTEMS FAILURE, apologies galore to the chairman of the Commission, Justice Senyo Dzamefe.
In this piece I want to concentrate on one of the three travels and tour agents contracted by the Brazil 2014 Secretariat. African Origin Travels and Sports Tourism.
In his book, 48 Laws of Power, Robert Green writing under the topic, “Plan All The Way to the End”, argues that the ending is everything. He explains that one must take into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse his/her hard work and give the glory to others. Therefore by planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. So then, gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.
It’s evident from the massive revelations at the Commission’s sittings that lack of careful and pragmatic planning was the bane of the nation’s appearance at the World Cup.
According to the cosmology of the ancient Greek, the gods were thought to have complete vision into the future. They saw everything to come, right down to the intricate detail. Men, on the other hand, were seen as victims of fate, trapped in the moment and their emotions, unable to see beyond the immediate dangers. Those heroes, such as Odysseus, who were able to look beyond the present and plan several steps ahead, seemed to defy fate, to approximate the gods in their ability to determine the future.
So do we see why the Commission has been turned into a weeping ground? Those appearing before it and weeping are perhaps lamenting their lack of foresight which is why we are where we are today.
Must companies, agencies, individuals suffer from the lack of planning on the part of leaderships?
I say no, and that’s why I make the case for African origin Travel and Sports Tourism and others who invested their resources into the World Cup.
For the records, Established in March 2000, African Origin Travel and Sports Tourism is Ghana’s premier and number one accomplished company in the Sports Tourism market.
Through its network of branches in Ghana that’s, Accra, Kumasi and Sunyani, the company services the public request and the sports market offering a wide range of competitively priced accommodation and tours throughout the world.
African Origin has been official Travel partner for the Ghana Olympic Committee and was the Ghana Olympic Committee and International Olympics Committee appointed Authorized Ticket Reseller for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as the Official ATR for Commonwealth Games in SCOTLAND 2014
The company was also appointed Official Ghana Olympic Committee’s ATR for Youth Olympics in China this month.
Other achievements by African Origin include, organisation of 56 fanatics to support the Ghana Black Stars in Egypt for the AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS 2006, GFA accredited and authorized travel and hospitality partner for Ghana’s participation at the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Germany 2006 (took Ghanaian fans and supporters), World Cup Germany 2006 by facilitating the largest number of visas approved by the German embassy to support the Ghana National team and organisation of over 500 supporters to support the Ghana Black Stars in South Africa the FIFA WORLD CUP 2010.
Others are Organisation of over 100 supporters to support the Ghana Black Stars in the LONDON OLYMPIC GAMES 2012, organisation of over 75 supporters to support the Ghana Black Stars verses England friendly in 2012, agent for over 10 international major companies within 3 years, Official Travel Agent for the NATIONAL SUPPORTERS UNION of the Ministry of Education Science and Sports for the arrangement of VISAS, HOTEL and AIR TICKET during the All AFRICAN GAMES in ALGERIA, UNDER 17 WORLD CUP in South Korea and FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, official Agent / Sponsor for King Faisal Football Club, official Travel partner for the Ghana National Supporters Union (GHANSU) 2004-2008 and GFA accredited and authorized travel and hospitality partner for Ghana’s participation in CAF African Cup of Nations in Egypt, Angola, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea / Gabon.
With these enviable achievements as a travel agent, it surely did not come as a surprise to anybody when African Origin was contracted by the World Cup Secretariat to help fly Ghanaian soccer fans to support the Black Stars in Brazil.
The Chief Executive Office of African Origin, Mr. Samson Deen, appearing before the Commission to state his case regarding his role in flying fans to Brazil, debated that following his track record, he was “not the least surprised when African Origin was contacted to provide professional advice to assist local organisers of the 2014 World Cup tournament towards ensuring a smooth outing by Ghana”.
“After some interaction with now former Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, I was requested informally to submit proposals and later held meetings with Fred Darko at the direction and pleasure of the minister who subsequently invited me over to his office for discussions on the preparations” he told the Commission”.
African Origin Travels fully complied with the requested requirements including submitting a detailed corporate profile and references, hospitality programme and budget for the requested services” he adds.
He told the Commission that his company was later to receive a formal invitation from the Ministry of Youth and Sports dated the 3rd of January 2014 to submit proposals to provide travel management services to Ghana’s fans, supporters and officials for Brazil 2014. The minister and the Chairman of the Protocol and Supporters Welfare Committee of the ministerial organising team for Brazil 2014 Kwadwo Adu Asare, former MP for Adenta both called him on telephone; some three weeks later, to invite him to attend an interview at the Osu Castle on the 24th of January 2014. Which he did attend and made a power-point presentation. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Adu Asare.
Mr. Deen told the Commission that his outfit received a letter dated 13th of March 2014,a month and half after the interview, congratulating and notifying him that African Origin Travel had been selected after evaluation processes undertaken by a technical team.
“My Lord, before this however, I had cause and concern to request to meet the minister and did meet him to discuss a number of relevant issues including media reports in which the minister was reported to announce plans I felt were difficult or almost impossible to implement. I did recommend cost saving measures including doing away with plans to set up fan parks, games village, cooking for supporters as well as the need to reduce the proposed thousands of supporters to a maximum of three hundred state sponsored supporters – either directly or by the MOYS raising funds from corporate Ghana” He adds.
He said, subsequently, an aide to the minister, Larry Acheampong, called to inform him the minister wanted him to meet him at Akosombo on the 21st of March 2014. He honoured this invitation at the Volta Hotel for a meeting that lasted only for ten minutes during which he was officially informed that his company had been allocated 235 persons to be airlifted to Brazil, provide transfers in Brazil and hotel accommodation for same.
“My company on the 24th of March 2014 received a letter dated same day, and like most previous official letters, signed by the minister confirming African Origin Travels had been assigned the responsibility of airlifting the said number of 235 supporters to Natal,Fortaleza and Brasillia”. He reveals.
Mr. Deen told the Commission that late in March he was requested to submit a revised budget reflecting the reduction in the numbers from 500 or more to 235.
“I duly submitted the attached marked as Exhibit “RB” with a caution via email in response to one from the Project Coordinator, Fred Darko. That email sought to unilaterally vary the agreement reached at Akosombo by demanding a visit to Brazil to inspect the accommodation facilities my company had long secured before approval for payment”.
“In these my emails in April I consistently drew attention to delays in signing the necessary MOUs and making payments and the fact that even though as an IATA member (i.e. International Air Travel Association) I could provide accommodation at anytime during the tournament, I was concerned that prices would increase with increasing demands for such facilities the more the payments delayed”. He asserted.
He said all emails from this point on were never replied neither were his telephone calls to the minister and his aides or assigns responded to. The minister called him on Sunday the 10th of May 2014 or thereabout informing him one Ben Nunoo Mensah was to contact him over the outstanding matters. Mr. Nunoo Mensah’s preoccupation was to discuss with him how to distribute a newly allocated space for 300 supporters among 25 registered supporters’ groups known to his company.
Nunoo Mensah also discussed how to secure visas for these supporters and MOYS dignitaries. By this time, his company had long procured visas for supporters’ groups including all those on the said list of 25.
“In fact, I all the while had been waiting for payments for this reviewed list for 300 supporters having submitted same to the minister upon request earlier in March 2014” he said.
He laments that he was once again not contacted again, neither were his attempts to make contacts with the minister and his people successful. It was on June 3rd that Mr. Nunoo Mensah called him requesting another revised invoice for the much earlier agreed and assigned 235 persons.
“I honoured a call to meet the minister over this budget in his office by 2pm of the 4th of June 2014. I was, however, not attended to until about 5:40pm when the minister who appeared to be hurrying out of his office directed me and George Amoako of Kenpong Travel and Tours to discuss all outstanding matters with Mr. Joel Nettey, chairman of the subcommittee Brazil In Ghana. His excuse was that he was late to catch a flight for Brazil. I was assured payment would be made the next day by Mr. Nettey and his committee comprising Ben Nunoo Mensah, Fred Darko, Kwesi Bentum, Horace Ankrah, one Rebecca and Dentaa Amoateng” Deen will add.
He advanced that, the next day when all frantic attempts to reach any of the above failed, he was left with no option than to seek audience with the Chief of Staff.
“I counted myself extremely lucky to have had the chance after some bit of difficulty. He, Mr. Prosper Bani, was very disturbed to learn of the events which he felt an urgent action was needed to avoid potential hitches. I understand he held separate discussions with key members of the organising committee. On the 7th of June 2014, he held a second meeting with them together with representatives of all three travel and tour agencies with whom he discussed solutions to avoid an undesirable consequence especially upon learning that the said committee had accredited a total of about 700 persons for the tournament”. He pointed out.
“Eventually as indicated in the Exhibit “SUCCESS” Series 1-7 attached hereto my company successfully flew out a total of 270 persons for the tournament on the 15th of June 2014 and brought them safely back to Ghana on the 27th of June 2014” he said.
He adds, that African Origin applied to the Ghana Football Association (GFA) for a total of 1,500 game tickets but they had 2000.00 USD worth of tickets delivered upon payment.
“We were promised 217 tickets which we paid for but this was not delivered. Attached hereto and marked Exhibit “GT” Series are receipts of the said payment”. He stressed.
“My Lord, things seemed to happen in a manner and fashion that gave me reason to suspect a lot of the services I was engaged to provide had been pre-procured and that the organising team was up to games with me while I broke my back to comply with every demand and request from the team”. He lamented.
Mr. Deen then prayed the Commission for the recovery of 108,000.00 USD (being 400.00 USD per seat agreed profit margin), Recovery of GHC 59,722.74 (being the cost of a total of 217 tickets paid for but not delivered – Unit price @ GHC 275.22), Loss of profits (due to delays in making payments on agreed times while cost of secured facilities rose), Lost time and business (deploying tools and machinery of company to focus on executing the special project to the total neglect of all potential businesses) and Legal fees (hiring the services of counsel to advice and assist in preparations to assist the commission)
He stressed that “I have given this account faithfully to the extent of my personal knowledge of events before, during and after the tournament. The account reveals a sad commentary of the processes from start to finish”.
Adding that, “the difficulties, frustrations, stress, avoidable waste, and the near disgrace that would have occasioned relative to this aspect of the organisation, were largely self-inflicted and needless”
He recommended to the Commission for consideration that the state, acting through the MOYS, may have to divest itself of much of such processes and by compliance with the Procurement Act, more professionally engage the services of travel agents for this aspect of the organisation and timeously.
“The MOYS may also consider an outfit whatsoever called and howsoever to be constituted upon sufficient professional consultation, to coordinate and serve the supporters’ unions. It may put in measures to, among others; screen persons to more accurately account for same and avoid the national image-damaging occurrence of supporters turning Asylum seekers”. He concludes.
As I listened and write the account of African Origin and the other two travel agents, I can only hope that I don’t hope against hopes, in the hope that lessons will be learnt, at worse from these and many more revelations at the Commission.
For, it is becoming clear by the day that, in the matter of Ghana’s participation at the World Cup in Brazil, the nation did not plan all the way to the end. And the African Origin story epitomizes the nation’s cosmology of the Brazil 2014 fisco.
Writer is Sports/Political Freelance Journalist.
Ashanti Regional Chairman,
Ghana Journalists Association